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Wednesday, February 13, 2013, 03:15 PM
Lent: Day One
Posted 1 Hour Ago
So for the next forty days–and Sundays which don’t count as Lent–I’ll be posting short posts for Spiritual Direction. If you are giving something up, or if you aren’t, or if you’re taking on an attribute, or if you aren’t, or if you aren’t doing anything in particular, but want to do something potentially non-threatening as you pass through Lent so you can feel you experienced something of it, then this is what this is for. With that being said, here comes the blog/direction for...
Traditionally, there are two paths most people take during Lent:
The more traditional and common one is to give something up for Lent. Some people give up chocolate, alcohol, whatever. The idea is that it is something that you not only like, but something you will miss. Remember, Lent is about purifying ourselves as we journey with Christ to the cross. So if you don’t drink coffee, there is no sacrifice or discipline in giving up coffee. Just as there is no sacrifice or discipline in giving up something you hate–like beats, or broccoli.
The idea is to either SACRIFICE something you love, or crave, or want as a devotion to God, and/or (because it could be both) to discipline your physical body by going without something it craves or wants–like chocolate, or coffee.
The more recent development (though many who take this route will often proclaim that it is actually tapping into something older, and therefore, a more authentic expression of Lent) is to take on some attribute–make more time for prayer, be more humble, be nicer, that sort of thing. The idea is that we don’t just give something up, especially knowing that we will start doing it again Easter morning, but that we practice something we either should be doing anyway, or should be doing better.
Okay, that was all the setup. HERE IS THE ACTUAL DIRECTION:
Regardless of which you decide to do, the common mistake that people make is that they are vague, whether they are giving something up, or taking something on. So your direction for this first day of Lent, is to look at what you are planning to do (or not do) and ask yourself “How can I measure this?” or “How can I be sure I am really doing (or not doing) what I decided?”
For instance, say you are giving up junk food for Lent. Great! MAKE A LIST of what you mean by junk food” and use that list to check yourself. Does junk food include, pretzels, chocolate, lunch meat, McDonalds, cake, ice cream, desserts? When a person gives up a general idea, then that person has no idea at the end of Lent if she actually followed through with it. At the end, if I ask them if they stuck to giving up what they said they wanted to give up for Lent, the person will often have a vague sense of “kind of, I guess yeah, I mean, I would have eaten some chips a couple times, but didn’t because of Lent,” but they know they ate other things that were not healthy for them, and would constitute “junk food.” So BE SPECIFIC. “I’m giving up coffee,” instead of giving up caffeine–because caffeine is in all kinds of things like soda, chocolate, and who knows what else. Give up chocolate instead of the general, vague term of candy. Identify what it is you are giving up, so you can measure if you are doing it or not.
This is even more true for those who are taking on a quality or something for Lent. Make sure you can measure what you are taking on. Don’t say “I’m going to be more prayerful” because that cannot be measured. Say instead, “I’m going to wake up an hour or half-hour early and pray,” or “I am going to find twenty minutes each day to pray.” At the end of the day, you’ll know if you did it or not. Don’t say “I’m going to read the Bible more,” say “I’m going to find a half-hour each day to read the Bible.” Don’t say, “I’m going to be nicer, or more humble,” decide what being nicer or being humble looks like, make a list of behaviors you can do or avoid that represents being nicer or being more humble, and do those things.
So for the first day of Lent, you mission should you choose to accept it, is to make whatever you are doing SPECIFIC and MEASURABLE–the technical term would “quantifiable.” I would recommend writing it down like a mission statement, and placing it somewhere where you will see it each day (tape it to your computer monitor, the back of your phone, put it in your wallet, but someplace where you can see it and read it each day.
REMEMBER: Lent is not meant to be a second chance to fail at keeping a resolution for the new year! It is a discipline, so decide exactly what your discipline will look like for the next forty days (plus Sundays) and write it out. It can’t hurt, it’s a good place to start your devotion, and it will help you avoid grey areas and getting down on yourself later.